True health is about more than what is on our plate. Everything in our life plays a role in how we feel, including our relationships, our career, and our spiritual practice. The foods we eat are secondary to all of these other nourishing aspects of life.
One of the most liberating things I learned in holistic nutrition school was the concept of Primary and Secondary foods. When I first heard the question “What do you think are our primary and secondary foods?” I immediately thought- Primary- Proteins, fiber, carbohydrates. Secondary - vitamins and minerals etc.
Boy was I in for a total perspective shift!
The class went on to explain that primary food goes beyond the plate, nurturing us on a deeper level. Feeding us every single day of our lives, and to my surprise, these were not foods! I totally connected with this concept and I knew my life was about to change.
The 4 Primary Foods are:
Relationships are a vital part of our wellbeing. They can nourish us with love, care, laughter, and support. This includes relationship to self, significant other, family members, friends, and co-workers.
Moving our body is essential to being healthy. They say that sitting is the new smoking. Imagine how many people commute for 30-60 minutes to work, then they sit for 8 hours at work, then they sit commuting home, and sit on the couch to watch TV. This might not be you, but we all know millions live this way.
Being “spiritual” can include things like maintaining a meditation practice at home, visiting a place of worship, or simply making time to acknowledge a high power. In addition to creating a greater awareness of the world around us, the effect of such activities can produce a significant sense of purpose.
Finding work we love, and loving the work we find is an important ingredient to our daily happiness cocktail. Some people spend as much as 10 hours a day at work. Can you imagine the effects on our health of not liking our job?
Can you see how primary foods, or non-food sources of nourishment, are what really fuel us?
Nutrition from food then becomes a secondary source of nourishment. Because even if we eat all organic, vegan, super foods, and simply the best foods we can find BUT our relationships are not doing well, or there is no physical activity, or we have no spiritual practice, or we hate our jobs, organic foods are not going to cut it.
In the same way that really good clean food can nourish us, and really bad food can make us sick and lethargic; primary foods can nourish us, and if we are not in sync with them, they can make us feel sick too.
Ask yourself these questions to see how healthy your primary foods are:
Do I have loving relationships? With family, friends and lovers? Why or why not?
Do I give my body the exercise it needs? Why or why not?
Do I feel a spiritual connection? With myself, earth, universe, God, and/or Spirit? Why or why not?
Do I love what I do and do what I love? Career wise. Why or why not?
The more primary food we give ourselves, the less we depend on secondary food. On the contrary, the more we fill ourselves with secondary food, the less space we leave for primary food – our true source of nourishment. Many religions and cultures practice fasting to reduce secondary food, opening channels to receive a greater amount of primary food.
Take some quality time to explore your personal balance between primary food and secondary food – which area could use some attention? Check out this wheel created by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to easily see the areas in your life that need more attention.
What are three steps you’ll take this week to improve these circumstances? It doesn’t always require a major change, sometimes simply speaking with someone and asking for support, or reassessing your priorities, can make a world of difference. You can share in the comment box below.
With love and gratitude,